Know Your Rights

Model Restroom Access Policies

Public restrooms have always been a civil rights battleground.

Controlling the way people use restrooms—or are not allowed to use them at all—has been a tool for degrading people of color, excluding women from traditionally male jobs and keeping people with disabilities from accessing public accommodations and employment.

The public humiliation often involved makes it especially hard to confront bathroom discrimination and educate the general public. But the same basic principle holds true for transgender people and those who have confronted this issue before: Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, including while involved in such basic human activities as using a public restroom.

Thankfully, some companies and governments are getting it right.

  • Washington, D.C., on gender-neutral bathroom signs: “All entities… with single-occupancy restroom facilities shall use gender-neutral signage for those facilities (for example, by replacing signs that indicate ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ with signs that say ‘Restroom’).”
  • Iowa lays out the matter especially well: “Just as non-transgender individuals are entitled to use a restroom appropriate to their gender identity without having to provide documentation or respond to invasive requests, transgender individuals must also be allowed to use a gender-identity appropriate restroom without being harassed or questioned.”
  • Washington State puts the onus on the boss: “All employers need to find [restroom] solutions that are safe, convenient and respect the transgender employee’s dignity.”
  • An excerpt from the Workplace Gender Transition Guidelines at Ernst & Young, among the largest and most respected accounting firms in the world: “A transitioning individual should use the facility based on their current gender presentation: specifically, their reassigned gender following commencement of the ‘real life experience’ and from that point forward. Co-workers who have personal concerns about sharing a restroom or locker room with a transgendered individual should be invited to have an honest discussion with an appropriate People Team member or a representative from EY/Assist.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Lambda Legal at 212-809-8585, 120 Wall Street, Suite 1500, New York, NY 10005-3904. If you feel you have experienced discrimination, call our Help Desk toll-free at 866-542-8336 or go to